History of CAARPR
THE CHICAGO ALLIANCE AGAINST RACIST AND POLITICAL REPRESSION
"Our 48 Years as a Testament to Our Future."
Frank Chapman, CAARPR Educational Director & Field Organizer, 2014.
When The National Alliance was founded in 1973, 41 years ago, our nation was confronted with a new era of racist and political repression. In the decade leading up to our founding convention in Chicago in 1973 all the various strands of the peoples’ movement had come under attack. We were founded at a time when, coming hot on the heels of the Civil Rights Revolution, our movement was beleaguered but unbowed by the so-called white backlash and covert, clandestine government repression. The constitutionally guaranteed right of the people to organize and protest was being illegally undermined. We were born in a crucible of struggle when a dark cloud, like an ominous warning of an oncoming storm, hung low on the horizon and the dusk of twilight was followed by a long night of racist and political repression. First there was a whole train of assassinations of civil rights workers in Alabama and Mississippi; then the murders of leaders such as Medgar Evers, Minister Malcolm X and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., quickly followed by the blatant murders of members of the Black Panther Party. Today we know that these vicious attacks on our movements were more often than not the work of local police, state sovereignty commissions and the FBI.
The revelations started in 1971 when “the Citizens Committee to Investigate the FBI” removed secret files from an FBI office and released them to the press. As a result of this courageous act FBI agents started resigning and blowing the whistle on illegal covert actions against people who were simply exercising their rights to organize and protests. This plus the congressional investigation led by Senator Frank Church made the American public aware for the first time that agencies of government, the FBI and state and local police had moved outside the laws they were sworn to uphold. They created secret and systematic methods of fraud, surveillance, violent force and yes, even methods of assassination (as is documented in the case of the murder of Fred Hampton). The entire operation was known as the Counter Intelligence Program or COINTELPRO; its founder and author was none other than the FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.
In the words of Hoover the purpose of COINTELPRO was to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit and otherwise neutralize” groups and individuals who were engaged in constitutionally protected political activity. All strands of the peoples movement were attacked from the NAACP to the National Lawyers Guild, to Black Nationalist groups like the Republic of New Africa, to peace and solidarity movements, from Martin Luther King to Caesar Chavez , from feminist to gay-lesbian to countless human rights groups and organizations we don’t have the space to name. No one was spared.
In spite of all the various turns of events where the government used agents, hired provocateurs, stool pigeons and carefully shielded assassins to destroy our movements we still continued to fight back. A remarkable example of the resilience of the people was the movement to Free the Soledad Brothers.
The Soledad Brothers were George Jackson, Fletta Drumgo and John Wesley Clutchette. They were accused of killing a white prison guard who had murdered three Black prisoners. Fay Stender, an attorney and activist organized the Soledad Brothers Defense Committee (SBDC). The SBDC organized a wide variety of political activists and celebrities such as Jane Fonda, Marlon Brando, Julian Bond, Tom Hayden, William Kunstler and Angela Davis. Angela emerged as the leader of the movement, in 1970, when the California Legislative Black Caucus initiated an investigation of the Soledad Prison.
Shortly thereafter, on August 7, 1970, Jonathan Jackson, 17 year old brother of George Jackson held up the court room at Marin County Civic Center and temporarily liberated three San Quentin prisoners, and in an attempt to bid for the freedom of the Soledad Brothers he took Superior Court Judge Harold Haley and three female jurors hostage. During the attempted getaway everyone was killed except Ruchell Magee and one of the jurors.
Because Angela Davis had purchased one of the guns she was charged with “aggravated kidnapping and first degree murder in the death of Judge Harold Haley.” Aware of the trumped up nature of these charges and the fact that she was already a target of a vicious anti-communist campaign in the state of California Angela decided not to surrender to the authorities. Thus she became a fugitive and the third woman in U.S. history to be placed on the FBI’s most wanted list.
Angela later wrote, in her autobiography, that while she was a so-called “fugitive” she hid in friends' homes and moved from place to place at night. On October 13, 1970, FBI agents found her at the Howard Johnson Motor Lodge in New York City. Upon her capture President Richard M. Nixon congratulated the FBI and called Angela a “…dangerous terrorist….”.
On January 5, 1971, after several months in jail, Davis appeared at the Marin County Superior Court and declared her innocence before the court and nation: "I now declare publicly before the court, before the people of this country that I am innocent of all charges which have been leveled against me by the state of California."
Across the nation, thousands of people who agreed with her declaration began organizing a Free Angela Davis movement. In New York City, black writers formed a committee called the Black People in Defense of Angela Davis. By February 1971 more than 200 local committees in the United States, and 67 in foreign countries worked to liberate Angela Davis from prison. At this time Angela insisted that the movement should not be about just freeing her but all political prisoners and so our battle cry became Free Angela Davis and All Political Prisoners. Solidarity movements sprung up everywhere and not only in the Eastern block of socialist countries and Cuba but in Canada, England, France, Chile, Jamaica, Vietnam and in the liberation movements in Africa the demand to Free Angela Davis and All Political Prisoners was persistently raised.
While we don’t have the time to chronicle this, perhaps most massive social movement of the twentieth century we must not neglect to point out that this very movement coming in the wake of one of the most repressive and murderous acts of government against the peoples’ movement showed us our future in how to build mass movements in defense of the rights of the people to organize and protest against injustice.
Thanks to the mass movement to Free Angela Davis and All Political Prisoners Angela was found not guilty by an all-white jury. Her experience as a political prisoner and a person whom the state was prepared to execute because of her political beliefs has been an inexhaustible source of strength for our struggle and is one of the foundation stones of our movement to end racist and political repression.
When Angela was freed she posed to us this challenge: Now we need to free all political prisoners; stop the Crimes of Government against our movement and abolish prisons. Thus the stage was set founding the National Alliance Against Racist and Political (NAARPR).
In the Spring of 1973 nearly 700 grass roots organizers, leaders and rank and filers called for the formation of a national organization of organizations, groups and individuals based on united, organized struggle. See original article here for list of sponsors on our Call for the founding conference of NAARPR.
As you can see from this list of sponsors we were not born in the drawing room of contemplation but in the dirt and blood of battle. Many of the political prisoners listed here as sponsors were freed within ten years after our founding conference, for example, Rev. Ben Chavis, George Merrit and many others. As a mass defense organization we accomplished many things, following is a partial list:
We filed the first petition with the United Nations calling attention to the plight of political prisoners, particularly the victims of COINTELPRO in the Black Panther Party, Dhoruba bin Wahad, Geronimo ji-Jaga, Assata Shakur and others. Dhoruba’s conviction was reversed March 15, 1990 and he was released without bail. Geronimo’s conviction was vacated June 10, 1997 and he eventually received a $4.5 million settlement for false imprisonment from the City of Los Angeles and the U.S. Department of Justice. Geronimo died in Tanzania at age 63, June 2, 2011; he spent 27 years in prison. Assata Shakur, and Pete O’Neal, also COINTELPRO victims have been in forced exile for over two decades and there are many other Panthers mentioned in our U.N. petition who are still languishing in prison, some have died in prison. There is much that remains to be done here.
We launched a massive campaign that freed Johnny Imani Harris from death row and prison.
We stopped attempts by the state of Mississippi to execute Mayor Eddie James Carthan on trumped up murder charges.
We were a part of the successful campaign that stopped the ultra right from turning Missouri into a right to work state in 1978.
We were a part of the movement led by the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union boycott of J.P. Stevens products. This boycott was successful in forcing the J.P. Stevens owned textile mills to recognize the union in North Carolina.
We successfully campaigned for extension of the Voting Rights Act of 1964 in 1984 by submitting tens of thousands of petitions, by demonstrations and lobbying Congress.
In alliance with the National Committee Against Repressive Legislation, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Conference of Black Lawyers, the National Lawyers Guild, the Amalgamated Meat Cutters Union, the Southern Organizing Committee, Clergy and Laity Concerned and others we successfully campaigned against several omnibus crimes bills that were designed to criminalize the peoples movement.
We called and held the first National Peoples Hearing on Police Crimes in Los Angeles, CA, in 1981 with Congresswoman Maxine Waters addressing our forum. Out of the hearing we developed our first model legislation for civilian control of the police.
Since we were founded 41 years ago new and even bigger forces of repression have emerged and police crimes have become the cutting edge of mass incarceration and political repression. Today, and since 9/11, the Patriot Act has by legislative fiat legitimized many of the illegal practices of COINTELPRO. Under the guise of fighting terrorism thousands of people have been denied the most basic of human rights by being tortured and falsely imprisoned without any benefits of due process afforded by the U.S. Constitution.
Since we were founded millions have been given excessive sentences under the draconian anti-drug laws, and African American and Latino families and communities have been decimated.
Since we were founded we have seen an ever expanding system of immigrant prisons added to the prison industrial complex run by greedy, profit driven corporations.
We recognize today that we have a Supreme Court that has rendered the Voting Rights Act virtually unenforceable, thus denying millions of people the right to vote based on color. Filling the prisons up with people of color while at the same time rolling back the gains of the civil rights movement is the reactionary formula used today to maintain the status quo.
The people will fight-back, in fact we have already started, particularly in the South with up to 100,000 people putting feet in the street demanding justice on every front.
We must learn from our history or the same people who perpetrated police crimes in the past to try and stamp out our movements will do so again and with a murderous viciousness that we are already starting to witness in the African American communities across this country.
In the past we demanded community control of the police in response to police brutality and the unwarranted use of deadly force. But today we know that our Alliance must take up the task of waging a massive political struggle for civilian control of the police in order to stop the quick goose step into a police state. This is the challenge we face now in our 41st anniversary.
Read and download the original article: A Brief History of the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, from our roots in the struggle to Free Angela Davis and All Political Prisoners to our current moment.