January 7, 1973 | Shootings in New Orleans linked to Black Panthers

While we justifiably focus on Islamist terrorism these days it is important to recall that there were other forms of violent extremism in the past.

In the never-ending world of Marvel and DC movies it is hard to keep up with all the superheroes out there. I am old enough to remember this world BEFORE the blockbuster Hollywood hits when you had to read – yes read! – comic books to follow all the adventures of Superman, Batman, Spiderman, etc., etc., etc.

One of the more recent characters to emerge on the scene is Black Panther. Not only is one of the rare non-white individuals in this fictional world but he has a strong African tie. I have not seen the film but my son says it is really cool.

As noted, this guy is made up. Do you remember the REAL Black Panther? Or rather, the REAL Black Panthers?

Black Panther Party (BPP)

The Black Panther Party (BPP), originally the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, was a revolutionary political organization founded in October 1966 in Oakland, California and was active across the US from 1966 until 1982. It was known for its citizens’ patrols, called ‘copwatching’, aimed at monitoring the behaviour of officers in light of police brutality against black Americans.

Bpp logo.PNG
Looks like a high school football team logo to me

By 1969 FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover labelled the Panthers “the greatest threat to the internal security of the country.” There were several violent episodes, including shootouts with law enforcement across the US.

In 1967, founder Huey Newton allegedly killed Oakland police officer John Frey. There were also incidents of internal violence: in 1969 Black Panther Party member Alex Rackley was tortured and murdered by other Black Panthers who thought him a police informant.

Huey P. Newton
Huey Newton, one of the founders of the Black Panthers

On January 7, 1973 “former” Black Panther member Mark Essex went on a shooting spree in New Orleans firing at 19 people (10 of them police officers), killing eight, in retaliation for police killings at a Howard Johnsons hotel in New Orleans. After setting up in the hotel, setting fires and killing random whites, he was shot dead by police.

This all happened decades before the #Blacklivesmatter movement. The fact that endemic racism is still prevalent should tell us something. When will the next Black Panthers arise?

And I am NOT talking about the movie sequel.

Phil Gurski
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