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The Black Panther Party: Beloved and Despised
Afro - American - Baltimore, Md.
Subjects: Book reviews; Nonfiction; African Americans; Essays; Black history; Civil rights; Organizations
Author: Poux, Claude Joseph Phillip
Date: Mar 29-Apr 4, 2008
Start Page: B2
Pages: 1
Abstract (Document Summary)

The BPP's Baltimore chapter had a less than illustrious beginning given its reported lack of professionalism under the notorious Warren Hart. But after Hart was pushed out and John Clark installed as chief, the BPP became a beacon of hope for many Baltimore Blacks. Further, Clark commanded the respect of Black Panther headquarters in Oakland, Calif., and would not be deterred from his duties in the face of formidably oppressive establishment forces. This confrontational posture only served to rally Blacks around Clark with greater vehemence - at first. Unsurprisingly, Baltimore's then longstanding police commissioner, Donald Pomerlau (1966-1982), a [J. Edgar Hoover] protégé, went into overkill in his attempt to thwart everything the Party was trying to do.

Pomerlau's aggressive behavior so worried Baltimore citizens that they formed the racially integrated Baltimore Committee for Political Freedom in 1969 to monitor police behavior. Their fears were justified- several Black Panthers had been assassinated by police in other cities around the country, with the murder of Chicago's Fred Hampton having had the highest profile of all. Still, the police successfully infiltrated the Baltimore chapter with obstructionists, the most infamous of which was Jimmy Foxworth. A Baltimore Sun reporter had discovered Foxworth's clandestine ties to police, which led to the dismissal of trumped-up criminal charges against some BPP members. But members continued to be incarcerated for any and every alleged infraction; utilities were interrupted at Party member residences; even a Party-sponsored breakfast for schoolchildren was disrupted by a squadron of police with weapons drawn. Between the violent tactics of the local police and the state and federal governmental counterintelligence efforts, it was only a matter of time before the Baltimore chapter collapsed. Party members may have helped the process along by admitting seemingly unconverted excons to their ranks, which they did because the pool of applicants for openings was shrinking fast as people distanced themselves from the Party out of fear of direct governmental retailation.

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