Between January 6 and the recent raid of Mar-a-Lago, it seems the Trump and Black Panther movements have quite a few things in common.
Frustrated and concerned for their rights, a group of armed protesters marched up to the Capitol.
No this wasn’t the January 6 “insurrection”, it was an event that took place decades earlier, one that, unlike the January 6 event, involved no questions around whether or not the protesters were indeed armed. That is not to say these particular protestors had no right to be frustrated and concerned.
It was on a historical day in 1967 that the Black Panthers showed up to California’s state Capitol armed with pistols, shotguns and revolvers, protesting the Mulford Act, which was a bill being considered that would ban the open carry of loaded firearms in California. But this isn’t the only aspect of the Black Panther Party that mirrors the MAGA/Trump movement. More recently, the FBI raid on Donald Trump’s Mar-A-Lago home may also conjure up Black Panther memories as well.
The FBI’s Raids of Both Donald Trump and Black Panther’s Residencies
It’s interesting how, on the heels of the FBI’s invasion of Trump’s home at Mar-a-Lago and seizing of his documents, now we are hearing right-wing media outlets highlighting how “targeting Donald Trump has been a top priority for the FBI, especially the upper echelon,” as Sean Hannity stated on his show August 16. And these recent events are causing the media to finally get around to addressing the questions around the FBI’s involvement in other events that have received heavy media coverage over the past two years, such January 6 and the Gretchen Whitmer kidnapping scandal.
January 6, along with the Mar-A-Lago raid, suddenly seem to line up with patterns from our history. With this news of the Mar-a-Lago raid, I just can’t help but be reminded of another raid that the FBI conducted that was clouded in controversy, but had much more devastating results. In 1969, a group of Chicago police officers raided the residence of young Black Panther leaders. When the building was raided by the cops, 21-year-old Black Panther “chairman” Fred Hampton was asleep next to his eight-month-pregnant fiancée. Police knocked down the door at 4:30 am and began firing a total of 90 shots, which resulted in the death of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, and serious injuries were suffered by four other Black Panthers. Cook County’s state attorney Edward Hanrahan had ordered this police raid on the Black Panthers, and preceded to lie about what happened, saying that the police were executing a search warrant for illegal weapons and were attacked by the Black Panthers.
It took years for the truth of this event to come to light, and according to History.com: “Not only was the killing of Hampton and Clark a cold-blooded assassination of two militant Black activists, but documents later revealed it was coordinated by the FBI as part of a secret program to neutralize and destroy the Black Panther Party, which FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover privately called ‘the greatest threat to the internal security of the country.’ “
The parallels continue. Back in 1970, the FBI branded the Black Panthers as the “most dangerous and violence prone of all extremist groups.” And in 2021, FBI director Christopher Wray confirmed that he would be labeling January 6 as an incident of “domestic terrorism.”
And besides the narrow focus that the FBI had on these two groups, there can be another common thread seen through the movements of both MAGA and the Black Panthers: Power to the People.
Below is some interesting background on the Black Panthers movement, what motivated them, and why when it comes basic Constitutional rights being violated, party lines seem to be an irrelevant factor for the FBI.
What is the Mulford Act?
To unpack all this, it helps to first revisit the details surrounding the Mulford Act, and why the Black Panthers showed up in protest on the steps of the California legislature that day. What may surprise some people is the fact that the governor that ended up subsequently signing this gun control bill into law was Republican Ronald Reagan. It’s important to note that while many think this bill was racist legislation aimed at the Black Panthers, there were several other groups whose membership included predominantly white armed citizens that lawmakers felt were intimidating citizens and cited as the reason for drawing up the bill. Black gun activist Colion Noir does an excellent job of unpacking these details and the Mulford Act’s true premises here. And regardless of whether or not the bill was racist, it still infringed on the inalienable Second Amendment rights of U.S. citizens. Following the Black Panthers’ protest, Governor Reagan signed the Mulford Act, and the open carry ban was in effect for the state of California. Then followed the federally implemented Gun Control Act of 1968 which put regulations on the firearms industry and firearms owners.
When the Panthers marched up the Capitol steps in 1967, they had reason to be concerned, and while they may have been armed, they never fired a shot that day. Some could say, they were simply exercising their Second Amendment rights, and the power of the people. Because that is what the Black Panthers truly stood for, Black Power and Power to the People. Likewise, Trump stated numerous times through his movement he was intent on giving power back to the people. And he went on to invigorate the private sector by bringing manufacturing jobs back from overseas, overhauling the corporate tax code, and aligning federal job training initiatives with private sector industry needs.
The Panthers were understandably fearful that a gun control bill was being considered, especially given the fact that when the Second Amendment was written into the Bill of Rights, it did not apply to African Americans. Then there’s America’s history of slavery, Jim Crow laws, and decades of residual inequality that so many black activists fought to change. The Black Panthers’ movement galvanized on the heels of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, after the murder of Malcolm X, and following the death of San Francisco teen Matthew Johnson by the hands of police.
The Illusion of Party Lines While Both Sides Have Their Rights Violated
“What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people,” Trump stated during his inauguration speech in 2017. The fact that Ronald Reagan signed the first gun control bill in the United States, when the Democratic party is more likely to be seen pushing gun control these days, shows how there is an illusion of party lines when it comes to basic inalienable rights such as the second amendment.
And while the FBI’s tactics may seem questionable both in decades past as well as the present day, the FBI doesn’t seem to consistently toe the line based on any sort of party affiliation, if you take a hard historical look. Just as the FBI was hellbent on dismantling the Black Panther Party (and they succeeded), they are also hellbent on dismantling Trump and the MAGA movement: i.e., they are hellbent on dismantling groups that fight for their God-given liberties. Both MAGA and the Black Panthers demonstrated the power of the private sector, and how there may be certain things that the power of the people can accomplish more successfully than the government.
In an article from Capital Research Center, Ken Braun discusses how several of the core principles of the Black Panther’s mission aligned with values of political conservatives and libertarians. Braun first discusses how the Black Panther Party developed a level of violence and disorder that was out-of-hand. For example, armed Panthers once attempted to kill a prosecution witness that claimed to have seen leader Huey Newtown kill a teenage prostitute, but ended up getting one of their own men accidentally killed instead. By the end of 1969, the Black Panther’s reign had resulted in 9 dead cops and 10 dead Panthers. They also had several members in jail (though some of them falsely accused) and announced an alliance with the communist regime of North Korea. But the Black Panther’s movement started remarkably different – more peaceful, organized and purpose-driven. In their beginnings, they were known as the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and would show up when police confronted local citizens in Oakland, California. The Black Panthers were there to remind the citizen of their rights and observe the interaction between police to make sure nothing unorthodox took place. These demonstrations did not end with gun violence.
The Black Panthers’ Admirable Social Programs for the Black Community
There were many good actions and ideas the Black Panthers implemented that we could all learn from and would be worth revisiting today. In the above mentioned Capitol Research article, Braun not only mentions the Panther’s promotion of the Second Amendment which many conservatives support today, but also the social programs the Panthers created in poor black neighborhoods, such as private schools, health clinics and free breakfast programs, which exposed the government’s limitations and parallel many conservatives’ support for faith-based social services such as food banks and substance abuse programs.
COINTELPRO: The FBI’s Counterintelligence Program Weaponized Against the Black Panthers
The Black Panthers weren’t without their share of issues, and the movement became increasingly dangerous in their later years. While personality issues within the party may have played a big part in this, it’s also possible that harassment by government groups such as the FBI contributed to this turn for the worst that the Black Panthers took. In 1969, the FBI declared the Black Panthers a communist organization and enemy of the United States government, and a group of antiwar activists uncovered documents revealing the existence of and plans behind a FBI counterintelligence program called COINTELPRO. Their plans included orders to “disrupt, misdirect and otherwise neutralize” Black Power movements. This program was also used to spy on and torment other black rights activists such as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.
COINTELRPO used existing animosities between members of the Black Panthers and other Black Nationalist groups to cripple the Panther’s movement, and along with it destroying their social initiatives such as the Free Breakfast Program. And what’s even more concerning are the highly unorthodox above-mentioned measures taken by the FBI and other law enforcement with the raid that led to multiple injuries and the death of two Black Panther leaders.
The Black Panthers’ Ideology Pumps Through the Veins of Today’s Society
An article featured in Townhall.com last year featured Corey Brooks, pastor of New Beginnings Church in Chicago. He was said to be addressing the “elephant in the room” regarding urban crime by going directly to the root of the issue of broken families that were leaving children without proper guidance and role models. Brooks became a father figure to young men such as x-Black Disciples gang leader Varney Voker, and his programs taught these young men to learn valuable skills, support themselves and then serve as role models to other young men. This concept seems to directly mirror what the Black Panthers stood for and the social programs they implemented.
There has been a recent rise in black gun owners: In 2020, the number of gun purchases by African Americans increased 56% from what it was the year prior, according to research by the NSSF. The Black Panthers would most likely be elated over this, since they fought for these rights to be exercised by the black community.
There have been many efforts from political figures, YouTubers, not-for-profits and journalists to educate citizens on their Constitutional rights in recent years, especially after the dawn of COVID-19 where people lost jobs because they didn’t get the vaccine, and the progressive increase in censorship in the media and on the Internet that infringed on peoples’ right to free speech. It seems the Black Panthers beat everyone to the punch; they had this practice of educating citizens on their rights down decades ago. And while unfortunately their movement strayed from its founding concepts and didn’t last, the good that they did both created lasting change and also should be executed on a larger scale to help the world today. The Black Panthers were the first to implement the free breakfast program concept, which the United States government has continued under their own authority after they dismantled the Black Panthers. And while Donald Trump’s movement also may not have been perfect, he did manage to return Jerusalem back to Israel, which King David had chosen as that country’s capitol thousands of years earlier.